Category: idioms

From six yards to nine: how idioms originate

In mid-January I asked my bookkeeper for an updated statement of my account. I wanted to look at my Dec/Jan financial affairs to prepare myself for 2020.

What he sent was a massive 13-page dossier going back to January 2019.

Best thing since sliced bread: how idioms are formed

Last week, I decided I was tired of egg and toast for breakfast, so I ate muesli for five days. This week I ran out of bread and it would be a while until I could get to the shops. By the end of the week I was really missing my bread.

Waiting for the cows to come home: Origin of idioms

Photo by Stijn te Strake on Unsplash

It seems that I have to wait for the cows to come home to get paid by some of my clients. In one instance, I have been waiting for more than four months for an invoice to be paid. Each time I phone to enquire about the status of the payment I am fobbed off with lies that equate to “the cheque is in the mail”.

Modern World

Although the world has modernised to include the option of electronic payments, the lie can be just as glib. “I’ll send you proof of payment.” When no such thing shows up in your email, you realise you have been taken for a fool for yet another month, with false promises such as “at the end of the month”, “on our next pay run” , “definitely by Friday” – I have heard them all, and four months later I am tempted to take the legal route. Really, it is ridiculous. The companies still run month to month don’t they? The full-time staff still get paid, don’t they? But when it comes to paying freelancers, there is every excuse in the book not to.

So, I sit back and wait impatiently for the cows to come home.

Lapse in time

This idiom suggests “an indefinite period of time”, a “lapse of time with no definite end”. History informs us that the idiom has its origins as early as the 16th century. Cows enjoy a stroll and once in the fields they are satisfied to roam aimlessly with no intention of returning to their milking stables – i.e. a long but indefinite time.

Although there is comfort among fellow freelancers who suffer the same ill-treatment, four months is beyond my patience threshold, and  I have threatened legal action. Since I made this threat, I’ve received a phone call to say, “I’ll send proof of payment”.

Will the cows be home soon?

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Doggerel: How words originate

Take the log out of your eye and other idioms

Three sheets to the wind: How idioms originate

 

Talking the hind legs off a donkey: How idioms originate

Last night while watching an excellent wildlife programme, I saw an antelope give birth, apparently a two-hour stint, to get the eager youngster out.

While I was engrossed in the final minutes, a friend called and took away my attention. She was complaining about her friend who talks the hind legs off a donkey. While doing that, she was guilty of the same offence – and I wanted to get back to ‘my’ antelope.

Last roll of the dice: how idioms are used

It’s all fair in love and war and friendship too.

I felt I was losing ground with a friend and that we would soon be going our own separate ways, so I asked her to do something for me which would require her to commit to making an effort in a very specific way.

A new take on money laundering

This week while editing an academic text, my hawkish eyes fell upon the phrase money laundry. The esteemed professor had made a typographical error. I smiled quietly to myself as images of ‘money laundry’ flooded my imagination.

Of Sackcloth and Ashes: How idioms originate

Chinese mourners wear sackcloth

This week I discovered a ‘delightful’ idiom in the novel Sophie’s Bakery for the Broken Hearted by New York Times Best Selling Author, Lolly Winston – sackcloth and ashes. I’ve read too far ahead to give you the context, but I made a mental note to make it the subject of my blog.

 

All the research indicates that wearing sackcloth and ashes is a sign of mourning, contrition or remorse – repentance for something you feel badly about.

Sackcloth and ashes defined by:

The Free Dictionary:  a display of extreme remorse or repentance or grief

Collins: – a public display of extreme grief, remorse, or repentance

Merriam Webster: to publicly express or show sorrow or regret for having done something wrong

And its origins? According to pharases.org.uk, “It was an ancient Hebrew custom to wear sackcloth dusted with or accompanied by ashes as a sign of humbleness in religious ceremonies.” From “The Dictionary of Cliches” by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).

Gotquestions.com explains: “Sackcloth and ashes were used in Old Testament times as a symbol of debasement, mourning, and/or repentance. Someone wanting to show his repentant heart would often wear sackcloth, sit in ashes, and put ashes on top of his head. Sackcloth was a coarse material usually made of black goat’s hair, making it quite uncomfortable to wear. The ashes signified desolation and ruin.

“When someone died, the act of putting on sackcloth showed heartfelt sorrow for the loss of that person. We see an example of this when David mourned the death of Abner, the commander of Saul’s army (2 Samuel 3:31). Jacob also demonstrated his grief by wearing sackcloth when he thought his son Joseph had been killed (Genesis 37:34). These instances of mourning for the dead mention sackcloth but not ashes.

Daily Bible Study provides the quotes:

“Then Jacob rent his garments, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.” (Genesis 37:34 RSV) (see Coat Of Many Colors)

“Then David said to Joab and to all the people who were with him, “Rend your clothes, and gird on sackcloth, and mourn before Abner.” And King David followed the bier.” (2 Samuel 3:31 RSV)

In modern usage, the phrase is used more loosely. For example, Richard has been seen in nothing but sackcloth and ashes since his wife left him, which describes his emotional state.

For me, the meaning is literal. Sackcloth and ashes are all I’ll be able to afford if I continue to work for free and underquote my services!

A pig in a poke

Pig out
Picture credit: Suzanne Tucker

Should you be interested in investments to the point that you  start reading books about them, don’t be surprised to find the term ‘a pig in a poke’.

When you see this idiom, you could think that the author is referring to something that occurred that was not quite to his liking or something that did not quite measure up to his expectations.

Know how to use rain, rein and reign

woman wearing black long sleeved blazer on white horse
Photo by Laila Klinsmann on Pexels.com

It’s spring in South Africa and in the season’s first flush, we had a smattering of rain.

That’s the stuff of celebration.

What’s not to celebrate is the state of our country’s newspapers.

No leg to stand on: How idioms originate

 

 

 

 

 

Having suffered a leg injury in December I could not walk and could not drive. I was practically immobile. In my static state I had plenty of time to think. I was reminded that everything that happens in the body is a result of what is happening in the mind.

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